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March 16, 2004
The Invisible Poll

A new CBS/New York Times poll shows George Bush suddenly ahead of John Kerry by eight percentage points in a three-way race, although it must be the quietest poll ever announced. In fact, the headline on the NY Times' story this morning sounds a lot bleaker than the final numbers indicate -- "Nation's Direction Prompts Voters' Concern, Poll Finds":

With Mr. Nader in the race, Mr. Bush leads Mr. Kerry by 46 percent to 38 percent, with Mr. Nader drawing 7 percent of the votes. In a sign of the polarized electorate Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry are facing, three-quarters of supporters of each candidate asserted they would not change their mind before the election.

The nationwide telephone poll of 1,206 adults, including 984 registered voters, was taken from last Wednesday through Sunday. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

The questioning was completed before the vote in Spain on Sunday that produced in the ouster of one of Mr. Bush's principal allies in the Iraq war, the party of Jos Mara Aznar. The vote followed a terrorist bombing there that has been linked to Al Qaeda.

Even without Nader, Bush leads Kerry, although only by three points. However, you have to get through eight paragraphs before you find out that Bush came out ahead in the poll! So the Times does a poll about the presidential race and determines that its lead for the story is the background demographics? Why am I skeptical that this would have been the lead had those numbers been reversed? CBS's coverage acknowledges Bush's advantage in the first paragraph, but fails to mention the difference Nader makes until you click to the second page.

Kerry's numbers have been dropping since the initial surge following his Super Tuesday victories on March 2nd. According to Real Clear Politics, Kerry has lost ten to twelve points over the past week alone, falling from 50% in a CNN/Gallup poll (which included Nader) to his level today. Kerry's propensity for shooting from the lip surely hasn't helped; his "most crooked" comment and his claim of endorsements from foreign leaders have contributed to an overall impression of dishonesty from the Massachussetts Senator. Not only that, but Nader's numbers have gone up, from 2% to 7% in the same time frame.

Interestingly, adding Edwards to the ticket doesn't put any steam behind Kerry, which surprises me. I expected that Edwards' campaigning skills and ability to connect with voters would do wonders for Kerry's patrician and condescending tone, but even a Kerry/Edwards ticket lags slightly behind Bush/Cheney -- and that's looking at a two-way race. Putting Gephardt on the ticket makes it worse, dropping Kerry six points behind in a two-way race, which is outside the margin of error.

Claims of desperation due to polling may have been a bit premature on the part of Republicans and pundits. It seems to me that the story of these polls is that the more people hear, see, and get to know John Kerry, the more they dislike him and transfer support to Ralph Nader, if not George Bush. The way that the New York Times and CBS packaged this poll also demonstrates their inability to keep their editorial bias out of their news reporting, and one wonders if even this poll actually reflects the true nature of the support Bush enjoys.

UPDATE: Power Line also notes the poll numbers, and comments that Bush's numbers still aren't over 50%. However, Clinton won two terms without getting 50% and it's still early in the process.

UPDATE II: Welcome to all Instapundit readers ... I also fixed a boneheaded mistake where I mentioned the Bush/Kerry ticket; obviously I meant Bush/Cheney. Thanks to Donald for pointing that out (in a much-appreciated humorous manner). For those of you visiting CQ for the first time, take a look around -- I hope you'll blogroll/bookmark me and come back often.

UPDATE III: I had no idea Mickey Kaus had linked back to this ... I should check my referrer stats more often! Welcome to all Kausfiles readers, and a big thanks to Mickey.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 16, 2004 9:17 AM

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» Hide the Beef from The Politburo Diktat
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